SIDELINES

Tryve Brackin

Despite this early point in the 2010 prep football season I certainly see both St. John and White Castle to be in the state Class 1-A title chase come November.

SJHS, a 2009 state semifinalist and a team that could have been in the 1-A championship game had they played eventual champ Haynesville on a Saturday instead of a freezing, sleeting Friday night, lost a lot of talent to graduation in May, but the Eagles already have shown me enough grit and talent through the preseason and into last week’s win over Belaire to be quite capable of being a District 8-A leader and playoff club again.

Right there with the Eagles and filled with talented athletes is White Castle. The only team to stop the Bulldogs in the playoffs last year was Haynesville as they outscored the Castlemen a week before winning the Sleet Bowl over the SJHS team. The Bulldogs reloaded over the year with all of their top players returning with an especially explosive offense group.

Overall, this season the Single A classification seems wide open. No one team dominates above all others for yet another Fall. The closest truly dominant teams in 2009 were Haynesville, St. John, and, yes, White Castle. Also quite capable were West St. John of the local 8-A district and a Southern Lab team that could very well have the best returning defense in the classification this season.

I see SJHS, WCHS, and WSJHS all leading the way through the 8-A and each one going a good distance into the playoffs if injuries stay low and improvements come with time. SJHS’ secondary and offensive line must continue to mature. White Castle must find a way to bring its defense at least somewhat closer to its great offense. And West St. John must overcome the loss of talented skill position players of a year ago.

The Lab Kittens of the “sister” 6-A district looms as somewhat of a potential equal to the 8-A trio because of a standout linebacking corps and good overall size on its line. Defense is the key to the Kittens’ possible success in 2010. The Baton Rouge Media is sure to get on their bandwagon, but that has happened in the past and over the most recent seasons, Lab has fallen short. Still, they loom as one of the better teams in Class A going into the season.

Kentwoodshould be solid as always, but lack of depth could end up a problem for the Kangeroos in the playoffs.

Down in the 7-A league, Catholic of Morgan City seems ready to get back into the playoffs with a bit more gusto than in recent years. The Eagles return experience overall and have good leadership here and there.

Recent 1-A powerhouse South Plaquemines, champs in 2008 and runner-ups last year, return enough talent to get into the playoffs and win some games. St. Martin followed SPHS into the playoffs in the 9-A district with a 8-3 record before White Castle topped them in the first round of the playoffs by playing some of their best defense in 2009. Both Country Day and Crescent City are down in numbers and talent this season it seems.

Jogging way north to find relatively equal talent in Class A football, don’t be surprised if several good clubs come south and win some playoff games as the postseason progresses.

Defending champ Haynesville is well coached despite a basically rebuilding year. Their teams always will be the kind that does not beat themselves. Ringgold and Logansport join Haynesville in the 1-1A district race because both have outstanding quarterback play and returning experience here and there.

The 2-A district is as competitive and the local 8-A with good teams up and down the list like the area district (Ascension CHS has a shot at the playoffs like the above-mentioned expected trio).

The 2-A title, however, is most likely coming down to a late-season, three-way battle with Oak Grove, Ouachita Christian, and Delhi fighting it out. That will help the surviving teams in the playoffs.

Vic Dalrymple has entered his 30th year as the Oak Grove coach at he gets his talent from a small, rural town in which the majority of male teenagers live for two things: football and hunting. This year the Grovers had outstanding size on defense, their always solid triple option offense, and the addition of the best wide receiver to come out of the program in many years in Da’La Mayers. Look for Oak Grove to add timely passes and end arounds to Mayers to their run-oriented attack this season.

Both OCHS and Delhi return good size on their lines and enough returning talent to give a run for the district title and the playoffs. SJHS won a battle with OCHS last year to advance to the semifinals up in the Monroe area.

St. Mary’s and Block loom as the early favorites in the 3-A district. Block returns speed and talent despite losing a number of key seniors. St. Mary’s is experienced and especially talented on the defensive end.

Both the 4-A and the 5-A do not seem to have the top-notch teams to go a long way in the playoffs this year, but you never really know? Oberlin was 11-2 last year, but fizzled in the playoffs and lost heavy at graduation time, so Hamilton Christian gets the expected nod for the 4-A title with some good experience returning. Westminster Christian looms as the top team in the 5-A league. Catholic of Pointe Coupee and St. Edmund should be a bit above average this season, but both are rebuilding in a fairly weak Class A district this season.

I look for Lab, one of the local 8-A trio, South Plaquemines, and Haynesville to all be key postseason powers. Block and St. Mary’s could have a title shot as well. But the strong competition in the 2-A district could send one of their three top clubs deep into the playoffs. In addition to Oak Grove, Delhi, and OCHS, the league also has an improved Cedar Creek team vying for a postseason berth. Like the 8-A, the 2-A looms as a contender-building football league.

I find it very interesting to see who can progress and improve the most as the classification’s season develops. Two variables loom over it all. First, depth in 1-A football always seems a big factor. Injuries can blow away a team’s chances no matter the starting team talent. Playing too many both ways can be very hard in the postseason, even in Class A.

And, there is the factor in the early and late season of Mother Nature. September is still hurricane time and we are just starting the month. That can wreck havoc on the state’s coastline teams. And we in Iberville saw it happen first-hand last year in the late playoffs. An especially cold and wet November favors the teams from the northern reaches of the state.

I will take it into my late years that 2009 was the season St. John could have won it all in Class A football had they been allowed to play Haynesville on the clear-sky Saturday that followed that horrid night at Green Devil Stadium when the Eagles nearly froze to death and the Haynesville boys came south well-equipped for that North Louisiana kind of November weather. Had the Eagles been capable of throwing the football to balance things out that Friday night, even the legendary and retired “Golden Tornado Godfather of Football” Red Franklin said the Haynesville boys would have succumbed.